Finally … a major motion picture with a solid Christian premise that’s not repellently corny.
Machine Gun Preacher tells the story of biker bad boy Sam Childers (played by 300’s Gerard Butler) who collides with Christ via the influence and prayers of his wife, Lynn (portrayed by Mission: Impossible III’s Michelle Monaghan). Upon conversion, Sam morphs into a crusading missionary who rescues kidnapped kids from a Sudanese warlord by the means of prayer, hard work and an AK-47.
As a Christian, I must confess that I’ve become a wee bit leery of Christian-themed movies for two reasons:
- If Hollywood has anything to do with it, the flick will usually depict Christians as buckle-shoed killjoys with three teeth who forbid dancing, have an IQ of 50, and secretly hump altar boys.
- Typically when Christians pony up to produce a movie it’s way underfunded and sports a cast of D-grade actors who stumble through predictable lines that drip with Precious Moments goo. It’s either that or some god-awful end of the world waste of celluloid that appeals only to atheists’ sense of humor or to the niche market Rapture crowd. Yep, generally speaking, when it comes to producing movies, like soup in a bad restaurant, the church’s mind is better left unstirred.
Machine Gun Preacher, however, avoids both Hollywood’s acrimonious assaults and the church’s Lysol-disinfected depictions of a gritty faith in a crappy world.
The R-rated film opens with a fusillade of sex, drugs, rock-n-roll, violence and more F-bombs dropped than Chris Rock could spew if he were to accidently smack his crotch with a sledgehammer. I’m kidding … there are not that many F-bombs in the film—but they are there, my beloved, so you have now been officially warned.
For me the crassness of MGP is both refreshing and necessary. It is refreshing in the sense that its depiction of a lost dude’s lostness is kept base and not gussied up for the sensibilities of the saints. The film makes zero attempts at keeping the religious comfy so that they won’t pop a blood vein in their easily offended foreheads. Delicious.
Secondly, the rawness is essential, at least to me, as a backdrop to spotlight the radical love and transforming power that faith in Christ delivers to Sam and why he’s passionate about following God in an extremely sacrificial way. I believe the maxim is, “Those who’re forgiven much, love much.”
Another hurdle those in the holy huddle are going to have problems getting their PC-addled backsides over will be Sam’s use of a machine gun to kill the Sudanese freaks who are kidnapping kids from the district in which he labors.
To some Christians this poses a conundrum for proper Christian conduct in complex situations. The debates this movie is going to spawn among the brethren will be delectable. However, for me and the parents of the kids who had been kidnapped, raped, beaten and/or forced to kill at the kidnappers’ behest, Sam’s use of lethal force is not problematic but rather commonsensical: The wage of sin is death, and Sam’s there to inflict it if someone messes with his kids. Indeed, in Sam’s situation he asks not the question, “What would Jesus do?” but rather, “Whom would Jesus whip?” Good for him. Next.
Aside from Sam’s tale, powerfully depicted by Gerard Butler, we have his wife Lynn’s life showcased in a potent way as well. Lynn, a former stripper who came to faith before Childers and prayed Sam to his senses, loved him when most women would have divorced him or berated him into compliance. She supports him during the insane startup of his work in the Sudan and rebukes him when he wants to quit after the rebels blow his orphanage to smithereens. Cowabunga, baby. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore. Good luck trying to find a girl like Lynn, boys.
In my obnoxiously humble opinion, this non-preachy film is a game changer that breaks from the predictable puerile depictions of Christians trying to follow God in a jacked-up world and instead highlights the up and down reality of a bad guy, rescued by a good God, who out of love for God and man wants to save innocent children in a vicious part of the planet. And it does so without pulling punches in regard to language, lifestyle, or the means necessary to rescue the kids (nor does it attempt to downplay Childers’ brutal internal struggles in accomplishing this beautiful work).
Bottom line: This controversial movie kicks butt (literally) and is well worth the ten bucks for the ticket price.
For information and locations where you can see Machine Gun Preacher check out machinegunpreacher.org.